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Friday, April 22, 2016

Farmer Ian Turnbull murder trial begins

81 year old Ian Turnbull

Farmer Ian Robert Turnbull's court case has begun.  He is charged with murdering 51 year old NSW Office of Environment worker Glen Turner when he came to his property in July 2014.

Yes he did a terrible thing - he killed a man who was just doing his job - but there is more to this tragic story that needs to be told. 

The Native Vegetation Act is the reason Ian Turnbull lost his mind and killed an innocent man.

His family said he was a broken man, crushed by worry and continual government harassment over his land-clearing plans on his Croppa Creek property, 55 kms from Moree. 

The aggressive stance by government officials wanting information on his plans and the constant court struggles and substantial fines over the years ground him down.

The family also said they hoped the tragedy would help to bring about change to the Native Vegetation Act.

A member of the family said "he was not like a hermit living in a cave, he was out in the community helping to build old people's homes, collecting trampolines at school fetes, he did Meals on Wheels, he was a respected elder who people turned to."

"It is not about objection to authority, there are rules and regulations" his son said. "But it is how they are administered, that is the issue with dad."

 NSW farmers wishing to clear land containing native vegetation must obtain a property vegetation plan or development consent from the state government.
Approval can take months or even years
Permission from councils and the federal government may be required as well
Penalties include fines of more than $1 million

There is deep resentment felt by landowners to the Native Vegetation Act 2003 which prevents even the smallest of land clearances without strict and cumbersome consents and these laws are enforced by spy satellites.

Todd Alexis is Ian Turnbull's Defence Counsel and I hope he does a good job and brings about the best possible outcome for this hard-working farmer.

Mr Alexis said in court yesterday "The question arising is this - whether this was a planned encounter or one that happened by chance." 

He told the jury the court proceedings brought by OEH had led Turnbull to have a "major depressive illness, which substantially impaired his moral judgement and capacity of self-control" and that they (the jury) would need to consider whether Mr Turner harassed and intimidated Turnbull and if the farmer was worn down and provoked.

Turnbull was tipped off that the officers were on his property and when he found them taking pictures and video evidence, he drove up behind their ute. 

He got out of his car and without warning fired a shotgun, hitting Turner in the neck and chin.  He fell to his knees and began to bleed heavily before getting up and hiding behind his car.

His co-worker Robert Strange will give evidence that over the next 40 minutes, he pleaded with Turnbull to allow him to get his injured colleague medical help, to no avail.

As Mr Turner darted around the cars trying to save himself, Turnbull fired two more shots, one hitting him in the chest.  He then made a run for it and was shot in the back, level with his heart and died.

Turnbull then drove off before telling Robert Strange "You can go now, I'll be home waiting for the police."

The trial is expected to last four weeks.